Fallout 76 was released roughly two weeks ago and aside from the occasional positive review from iconic filmmakers, the general consensus is that Bethesda’s latest entry to the series is more dud than delight. The game is the unfortunate owner of a pitiful 49% score on Metacritic, has already been significantly reduced in price, and has been the target of headlines asking, “Is Fallout 76 Worth Saving?” (Forbes.com). The gaming industry as a whole is ready to declare this online experiment a full-blown disaster and move on to anticipating the undeniably distant release of Fallout 5. While it’s true that Fallout 76 is far from perfect, there’s at least one die-hard fan of the series who believes that this latest entry deserves far more credit and forgiveness than both reviewers and gamers alike are giving it. Here’s why this game is in fact “worth saving.”
More Fallout is More Fallout
Bethesda doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to timely releases in the Fallout series. After a strong start (a single year between Fallout 1 and Fallout 2), they took six years between the second and third entries and then four between Brotherhood of Steel and Fallout 3. Then there were roughly five years between Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4. The company may be more prolific than George R.R. Martin, but they still take their sweet-ass time (if only that translated to less glitchy games…). So after the release of Fallout 4 in November of 2015, fans of the series realistically were looking at a potential time frame of fall 2020 for the next installment. But then suddenly, this past May, the world was treated to a teaser for a new game to be released within the year – just three short years after the previous release!
Imagine living in a world where chocolate cake is produced just once every five years. Then out of the blue, a new cake is baked long before expected! As you tear into the surprise confection, you quickly realize that the cake is a little dry, the wrong flavor (vanilla), and there isn’t enough icing on it. Are you outraged by the subpar treat, or simply thankful for the unexpected delight of eating some cake when before there was none?
The joy of exploring an entirely new (and massive) Fallout world long before any of us anticipated easily outweighs the frustrations of the game’s early issues.
Multiplayer Fallout is a Worthy Experiment
One of the few drawbacks about the Fallout series overall (excluding the abundance of glitches) has been the inability to share your wasteland experiences with a friend. Recent editions have allowed players to enlist NPC followers, but Dogmeat never quite seems to share the satisfaction of discovering a new plasma weapon or taking down a Deathclaw. So it only seems natural that Bethesda, in looking for ways to improve its blockbuster franchise, thought it might be worthwhile to explore a multiplayer component to Fallout. The developers saw value in the opportunity to wander a bombed-out post-apocalyptic America with a friend. Their inclinations were laudable, and now they just need some time to work through the growing pains that are bound to come with introducing such a radical new aspect of gameplay.
Props for Problem Solving
It’s easy to complain about some of the early issues that an online version of Fallout has presented. What surely wasn’t easy was the sheer amount of problem solving that went into the challenge of transitioning this FPS series into a multiplayer vehicle. Elements like NPC interactions, base building, and enemy A.I. all become difficult to tailor towards twenty-four players roaming around at the same time. The developers couldn’t just do what they’ve always done, but the goal would be to preserve the look and feel of these aspects from previous iterations of the game.
Major credit is due for the creation of the C.A.M.P. system, regardless of how finicky it has been at the initial release of Fallout 76. The folks at Bethesda actually figured out a way in which players can build a base and carry it from world to world, game to game. Yes, the “budget” limit is problematic and finding a clear spot to deploy your C.A.M.P. can be near impossible (though there are plans for a “bulldozer” function to help with that). But the concept is sound, and with time this feature of Fallout 76 should add a lot of depth to the gameplay experience.
A Bold New World
As if multiplayer wasn’t enough of a departure from previous Fallout iterations, the creative team at Bethesda also outdid themselves with a drastically different setting for Fallout 76. The narrative begins in 2102, which is a meer 25 years after the start of the Great War in 2077 and a full 59 years before the events of the original Fallout. Prior to the release of 76, developers pointed out that West Virginia would feature much brighter fauna and an all around less-irradiated look due to the recency of the Great War. They previewed how the monotone, earthy and drab tones of previous Fallout releases would be replaced by a much more vibrant color palette.
Now that Fallout 76 is live, it’s quickly become clear that brighter colors are just the tip of the iceberg. The variety of locations to be explored across West Virginia have set a high-water mark for the series, offering locales ranging from an amusement park, a giant teapot, and a crashed space station to name but a few. Next time you’re inevitably walking too far just to save a few caps (charging for fast travel? On a map this huge? C’mon, Bethesda), pause for a second to take in the natural beauty that populates Fallout 76. Enjoy those views while they last, because odds are Fallout 5 will be a return to the typical gloom that fans have grown accustomed to.
With all this said, Fallout 76 is admittedly a flawed initial offering from Bethesda Game Studios and the company has a lot of homework to do in order to bring the game back up to par. But maybe just this once, in an ever polarized world, we can not be so quick to anger. Patience is a virtue – let’s give the developers some more time to iron out the wrinkles, issue a few patches, and fine-tune this game before we write it off entirely.